THE VALLEY OF JOY
In front of Julia the road stretched out without curves or potholes. The daily journey with everything foreseen. It was a quarter to nine. Julia kept her eyes on the road and meanwhile thought about what she was going to do as soon as she arrived at the office. This countryside is too familiar to excite me. The mountain on the right where her house was, the thickets, the wild yellow flowers and the trees that lined the way to the town leaving the countryside behind. How boring! Julia no longer liked her job. Why do we spend our lives doing things that don't give us pleasure? Julia's life was reflected in the road: straight, no bends, no potholes, no highs, no lows. The sky was not at all promising with so many clouds that were increasing as she neared the town. Julia relaxed and concentrated on the road.
The trees that bordered the road where Julia was walking were tall and abundant. They seemed to go on for ever. Julia tripped over a stone and she realized that she was no longer in the car with the asphalt below. "How many times have I passed by on the road to work and I never noticed this place. It really is lovely."
The path through the wood was dark with so much foliage. Julia didn't stop, but continued at a steady, regular pace through the wood. The only sound was the whisper of the leaves, so light it was almost imperceptible. Julia's feet made hardly any noise, and she felt that instead of walking she was gliding over the earth.
"The next time I pass by here with Richard I'll make him stop to show him."
Suddenly, in the distance she saw a radiant light and she headed towards it. When she arrived at the edge of the wood where the green darkness ended and there was more light Julia saw a gate. She approached it, opened it, being careful to close it behind her. The further she walked on she realised that there was no more wood, just a footpath sloping down into a beautiful valley, bathed in a soft, warm light. Julia stopped and gazed at the valley before her, the flowers and plants. What is this place? She set off towards the valley, the light became more and more brilliant with every step, but the most surprising thing of all was that it didn't annoy Julia's eyes.
A man came out to greet her. He was about sixty, short, bald, and with a hearty air. Kindliness was in his gaze and smile, he held out his hand, "Good morning, welcome."
Julia was not sure, but the face of the man standing before her was somehow familiar. "Good morning. Could you tell me the name of this place and the wood I've passed through? I have travelled on the same road for many years but this place was unknown to me."
The man answered her, "This place is known by many names."
Julia accepted the answer, knowing that her new acquaintance was probably never going to tell her.
"My name is Bernard and I'm going to introduce you to the rest."
"Are there many people here?"
Bernard answered Julia's question amiably, "Yes, there are quite a few people here. I don't know everyone but I've seen them around."
Bernard gave Julia a sense of security and she felt happy. They arrived where there was a mixed group of men, women, and children. When the group saw Julia they stopped talking and went up to her. A woman came first and said, "Good morning, welcome."
Everyone took their turn in repeating these words and Julia felt at home. One by one the people kissed her and shook her hand. Julia thought that she had never felt such a sense of well-being. Bernard had distanced himself from the rest and Julia, once the introduction was over, went to look for him. The man who had guided her to that wonderful place was sitting beside a lake that received water from a lovely waterfall from which rose the sparkling colours of the rainbow.
"This is pure magic" Julia said to Bernard. The man held out his hand to Julia and she sat down at his side. In a harmonious silence they enjoyed the waterfall that at the same time was peace for those present. The stream fell unceasingly and in its fall there was a music without beginning and without end, it began at the height of the torrent, till it reached the lake and went who knew where. That place was a magnet that attracted the people with no more effort than its own existence; a never-ending fusion of sound, light, colours, and well-being. Other people around were enjoying the scene. What Julia couldn't understand was that nobody gave any sign of working. Little by little she succumbed to the so relaxing atmosphere of the place and fell asleep.
On waking she saw the first woman who had greeted her, who asked, "What would you like?"
Julia had always had the illusion of possessing a hammock. "A hammock, please."
"You'll have it straight away," said the woman called Elvira.
Julia, now with more confidence, asked, "Have you been here long?"
"Yes, so long that I no longer remember. Here there is no time."
Julia appeared to be somewhat disconcerted and Elvira, to calm her, said, "Don't worry, we are very well here."
Julia didn't answer and leant her head against a tree trunk. "Yes, it's true, time doesn't count, with all the time I've been asleep and the sun is still shining as strong as ever."
Elvira, as if she could read Julia's mind, said, "Here there is no night but you sleep just the same as if it were."
At that moment a boy arrived carrying a hammock in his arms. He smiled at Julia and Elvira, saying, "Here's the hammock."
Julia returned his sweet smile with one just the same.
"Thank you. Is this boy your son?"
Elvira shook her head, "No, this boy is not mine. Here there are no husbands, nor wives, nor children. We are all one."
"But he must belong to someone."
"Why? We belong to each other."
Julia looked at Elvira from the corner of her eye, but the other seemed sincere. "Well, if you say so."
The boy started to set up the hammock, trying it out to see if it was well fixed. The two women gazed at him tenderly as he toiled, which wasn't so strange because the boy had a special beauty. His eyes resembled two black cherries and his skin mother of pearl. His hair was brown and curly. The total effect was that of a good, sweet boy. He must be about eight, Julia thought. As soon as the hammock was hung up the boy invited Julia to get into it. Julia got into the hammock under the gaze of Elvira and the boy. "What's your name?"
Julia made a gesture to come closer and the child went up to her. Julia took his face in her hands and kissed him on both cheeks. "I'm called Julia."
David smiled at her and began to move the hammock. From the hammock which was already familiar to her, Julia contemplated Elvira who was smelling the nearby flowers. She felt so well, it seemed as if the hammock had been made for her. As the hammock swayed she felt a great peace. "I don't mind if I have to stay here for the rest of my life."
How far away were her husband, her home, her work and how little importance they had in comparison with this.
And beneath the bright shining light and the gentle push that David gave the hammock, Julia entered into a deep relaxed state. Her last thought was, "I have to tell Richard about this place. He'll like it very much." And she fell asleep.
Under a drizzle that reached the bones, the firemen finished their work. The drivers who passed the wreck didn't look at the heap of smoking metal for long, they were more concerned about getting to work safely. Very little of the car remained and what was left had been burnt through. After a few minutes the firemen were able to get near the remains without any danger. The chief fireman opened the car door but it wasn't necessary because there was nothing to see. The fire had consumed everything. "The fire must have spread extremely quickly. Everything has been destroyed. I'm sorry sir, but there is no trace of your wife."
Richard was visibly distraught, and unable to believe there was nothing left of his wife. One of the policeman gently offered, "You can't drive in that condition. Let one of us take you home."
It was nine o'clock in the morning when Richard began his journey home. Ahead of them was the long ribbon of tree-lined road that led to daily life.